So, this was my first Ironman branded 70.3, and the biggest race I've ever participated in. It was also in my hometown of Syracuse, so I knew a ton of people that were racing, spectating and volunteering. Going into the race, I surprisingly did not feel any pressure to "perform." Actually, it was not surprising because I had been intentionally working on some mental things about the race that had nothing to do with beating anyone or competing. My goals for this race were to stay within myself for the bike, push hard on the run, have fun, smile, be thankful, and encourage others along the way.
The weekend started out with a trip out to transition to check-in our bikes. This was the first race Kel and I have every done together, so it was fun (but also a bit nerve-wracking since there was two of us with pent-up nervous energy.) This was also Kel's first half-ironman, so I wanted everything to be very smooth for him leading up to the race.
We checked our bikes in. I had an okay spot almost at the end of a rack, but the run to and from bike out/in was very far. I decided when I saw the long grassy run up a hill to the mount line that I would start with my shoes on the bike, because I didn't want to get my cleats all muddied up and struggle getting clipped in, as I have been known to do.
Buttercup had sweet company for her night out.
I was expecting the water to be a bit chilly, so I decided to just dip my feet in instead of taking advantage of swimming during the practice swim. My thoughts on this are it's going to be just as cold tomorrow and there really isn't anything you can do about it, so don't worry. I try really hard to not worry about things that are completely out of my control like weather, water temperature, other people, etc. It is a very good triathlon technique (and also works really great in everyday life too!)
Yep, it's cold alright.
On the way out, I ran into Christine, aka Holistic Guru. So fun to meet in person, someone I've only ever talked with over the phone or internet.
We ended the evening with a great Train-This team dinner at Mike's house. It was fun to hang out with my team-mates, many whom I have only met online. Mike's mom also fixed a fantastic pasta dinner with homemade sauce and meatballs and bread from Columbus Bakery (basically the holy grail of Italian bread.)
I was in bed with a full tummy by 9:00 and actually slept pretty well for the night before a race. I was all packed and ready to go, nutrition mixed up and waiting in the fridge, clothes laid out in the bathroom...I was ready. The alarm went off at 4:25, Kel and I did the bathroom dance that all long-time couples do very gracefully when getting ready at the same time. We gathered our things and were out the door by 5.
Which was a very good thing, since there was crazy traffic getting to the race site. (On the way, I realized I had forgotten to put on my HR monitor. Not a big deal since I was racing by perceived exertion, but I still wanted to record the race to look at later). By the time we parked and walked the 1/2 mile to transition it was already 6:15, giving us only 30 minutes until transition closed. I don't like to wait around forever, but I do like more than 30 minutes to get ready.
And this was when things started getting funky.
I got to my bike and immediately realized my front tire was flat. I stayed very calm, pumped up the tire and threw my transition stuff together. I felt the tire, and it was definitely not holding air, so I popped the wheel off, ran over to bike support (thank you Syracuse Bike...you guys are awesome!!) where the bike mechanic changed it in no time, pumped it up for me and handed it right over with a reassuring smile.
I ran back to my spot as the announcer was saying that transition will be closing in 4 minutes. I did not have my wetsuit on yet, still had to put my wheel back on the bike, but I stayed calm and got everything done, including smearing some sunscreen on despite the temptation to skip it because I had serious doubts as to whether the sun would shine at all (but, as we all know, you can still get UV damage on a cloudy day!). I was out of transition right at 6:45, and then they announced the race would be delayed by 15 minutes due to the crazy traffic getting into the park. At that time, there were still athletes in cars out on the road waiting to get into the park. Talk about a stressful morning!
Kel and I took a quick warm-up in the VERY cold water. I'm glad I got that out of the way before the race started. It gave me a lot of confidence, and I also got the chance to make sure I could see the buoys which I find hard to do in the stress of a race start. I dried off and put on my sweats, watched the pros go off, gave Kel a kiss, then headed for the bathroom. It wasn't really in the plan to take the wetsuit off again, but Kel advised that it would be a very long day if I needed to go now and didn't. He is a wise man.
The swim was fairly uneventful. It was a shallow water start and I lined up on the second row. I had already decided to go out nice and easy since the water was so cold. I didn't want to get out of breath and start panicking. The start was very smooth with no body contact at all. I got into my rhythm pretty quick and, as usual, had no feet to hang onto. I am typically not fast enough to keep up with the fasties, but faster than the slow people, so the benefit is that I have nice clean water. I concentrated on smooth long strokes and good sighting. I think I didn't push as hard as I could have because I was a little concerned about the cold water. I did start to feel a little twinging in my left calf a couple of times, but I flexed my foot and put it out of my mind. I never went off course, which is a first for me. A solid and very cold swim.
Swim 1.2 miles: 37:54, 23/70 W35-39, 1:48/100 yds.
I won't lie, I was glad to be getting out of the water. My feet were very cold. My wetsuit did not cooperate as I got out. I'm supposed to be able to pull it up and then it breaks apart from the top, but that was not working. Then I tried pulling it down, and that wasn't working either. Right as I got to the wetsuit strippers, it finally came down. My friend, Ken, helped pull it off my arms, I sat down, and he ripped it right off...AWESOME!!
I ran the long run up to transition, and during that time decided not to put on my arm warmers. This was a mistake that I paid for on the bike. I dried off a bit, got my gear and went. Shoes were on the bike already, and I bike with no socks (also maybe a mistake). I got to the mount line, put my right foot into the shoe and then went.
I had ridden this course three times prior to the race and each time my time was 3:23 to the minute!! Kind of crazy, but I was definitely expecting a faster time on race day. It took me a minute or so once I started to get my numb foot into my shoe, but I finally did and got down to business. Then I tried to take a drink and realized in my transition rush I had put my aero bottle on backwards. No biggie, I just pulled the straw out and stuck it right into the hole where you fill it up.
My goal on the bike was to stay within myself, and I executed that very well. It was extremely discouraging to watch so many women in my age group (24 to be exact) and the age groups that started AFTER me pass me, but every time a negative thought crept in my head I literally said, "Stop!" and got back to MY race. I had a blast on every hill. I tried to encourage everyone I passed, I almost blew a snot-rocket right onto my Train-This teammate, Alexa (that's what you get for passing me on Sweet Rd! ;)), I hooted and hollered, I yelled how much I love hills, I smiled, I thanked God that I could even be out there, and every time that nasty voice that started making excuses, or told me I need to lose weight, or started to say discouraging things started to speak up, I said (sometimes yelled), "Stop!" and then replaced it with a prayer of thanks or a smile or a joke or the thought of one of my beautiful children or my husband who was out on the same course as me.
My Garmin crapped out at mile 43, so from there on I had no data. No data, no worries! Smile and keep going. My fingers were so frozen I could hardly shift gears. Frozen fingers? No worries, just use two hands to shift and keep going with a smile. I was very encouraged along the way by all of the people I knew along the course, and those I didn't know. Syracuse showed up for all us on Sunday morning, and it made me very proud of my hometown. At one point, I got a little weepy because two of my coaching clients were out on the bike course cheering for me. It was totally unexpected and it brightened my day so much! Thanks, S. and E.!!!
My nutrition was solid, even though I felt that left calf twinge 3 or 4 times, I just tried not to worry about it. I didn't take any aid at the first aid station, at the second I missed my first water bottle, grabbed another and then dropped it while I was trying to put it in my bottle holder. At the third I slowed way down and made sure I grabbed it, filled up my aero bottle than chucked it. At one point, I was very tempted to stop when I saw a Snickers Dark unopened on the course...yum!!
I finally rolled into transition, quite numb and happy to be headed to the run.
Bike: 3:15:54 47/70 W35-39, 17.9 mph (8 minutes faster than I have ever ridden it!!)
No biggies here. I was out of my shoes on the bike, ran and racked Buttercup, threw on the shoes, grabbed my nutrition and was off.
The first few miles of this run are downhill, and they felt great! I finally started feeling my toes around mile 2, and that was a relief. I was taking splits as best as I could with my watch, which fortunately I had decided to wear so I had a running time. I didn't even think to use the lap button...duh!! Anyway, I estimated I was running between a 9 and 10 minute mile, and was happy with that. My goal was to finish under 6 hours, and as I was leaving transition I was right at 4 hours. I knew a half-marathon under two hours would be a stretch, but I decided to give what I could and make the most of it.
The miles ticked by very quickly. I had a shot block before every aid station and followed it with a swig of water. I walked at every aid station, and as soon as I had my water down, I was running. Along the way, I saw so many people that I knew out cheering. It means so much to me that you guys took time out of your day to come watch me run by! At the first aid station on Erie Blvd. my friend and coaching colleague, Brendan, walked with me through the whole aid station just encouraging me the whole way. I was excited to get to the mile 9 aid station since it was the Y aid station, and I knew every single person there! They even wrote me a message on the course!! AWESOME!!!
Around mile 10, I felt my pace start to slow. I felt like my left calf was really close to cramping, and I didn't have any salt with me and none of the aid stations had any either. I was looking forward to some coke at the next aid station, but they had none, nor did any of the rest of the aid stations. (I later found out that many people were asking for coke, including the pros, and wondering why it wasn't there, even though the athlete packet said it would be on the course.) I started asking the people running around me if they had any salt, and no one did. At the very last aid station, where another of my friends was volunteering, I decided I would have to have some gatorade since I was basically keeping the cramps at bay with my amazing mental fortitude. It did help and I was able to pick up the pace for the last mile. My thoughts during this time were mostly about how if I could be in labor for 24 hours, I could do anything for 10 minutes!!
Coming into the last aid station before the finish.
I finally came around the corner and ran through the throngs of people to the finish line (that was awesome too!) I crossed the line and realized that I had PR'ed by 3 minutes. Hey, it's not a lot, and it wasn't under 6, but I'll take it. After I saw the splits I also realized I had PR'ed my stand alone half marathon time as well. Kel was there with my in-laws and the boys, so many people were cheering my name...I felt like a rock star!!
Run: 2:05:19 39/70 W35-39 (wow, I passed a few people!), 9:31 pace
I also want to mention that Kel had an amazing day and finished his first half-ironman distance in 5:13:09!! (However, I did have a faster swim than him...certainly that counts for something???) I am incredibly proud of my man!!
Kel coming through the final aid station with a smile and a thumbs up.
All in all, it was a great day. It was not a perfect day, but what was perfect were the imperfections and my ability to stay focused and get through them. What a great way to end the tri season.
And if you have made it this far, YOU deserve a medal!! Thank you for all of your support and encouragement, and thank you Coach Mary, my guide in this crazy world of triathlon and to my amazing sponsors Trakkers, First Endurance, Saucony, TriSwim, and All3Sports. I am honored to be a part of your team.